Scott Garrison loves coaching tennis, but he hasn't always enjoyed the long drives to and from practice.
Garrison recently took over the tennis programs at Portage High School, and now he believes he has the best of both worlds.
"It's such a great opportunity for me," said Garrison, who has a wife, Susan, and two children: Bryan (age 10) and Nathan (5). "When I found out I could coach both (the boys and girls) programs, it was too big of a chance to pass up."
Garrison passed up a fourth year with both programs at Morton four years ago. The 50-minute commute from his Valparaiso residence to Hammond left him feeling guilty on two fronts.
"I want to be able to give the tennis players as much time as they need," said Garrison, who also coached girls tennis for six seasons at Kankakee Valley. "You also want to say good night to your children before they go to bed. I felt I was almost rushing off the courts to do so."
The shorter drive time isn't the lone benefit from this new position. Portage has been the site for several postseason events over the years with its sprawling 12-court facility, plus the fieldhouse which takes away issues that inclement weather produces.
Garrison wants to use the facilities to expand tennis in the community. He's created a middle school program, but his main focus right now is focusing on the boys program.
The Indians finished 17-3 last season under former coach Gary Hayes, but they also lost several players to graduation. One of the key returnees is senior John Fannin, who will probably move from No. 2 to No. 1 singles this season.
Fannin was a little nervous during his initial meeting Garrison.
"Oh, jeez, the new coach," Fannin thought. "Then I started to talk with him, and he was great.
"With coach Garrison, it's more of an outlook of not really playing harder, just playing smarter."
Part of that strategy might call for dropping a few points to figure out ways to defeat your opponent.
"High school boys players don't like to lose a point," Garrison said. "They always want to finish the point early. it's like chess. Once in a while you lose a pawn to get a bigger piece."
Garrison said this is the first year of a three- to five-year plan where he would like to bring the boys program to where it was when former coach Rich Mason helped the Indians win consecutive regional crowns from 1993-95.
"I would like to be No. 1 in the (Duneland Athletic Conference)," Garrison said. "I want to bring the program back to where it was in the early 90s
And he wants something else to change.
"I'd be amazed to drive by and see the courts sitting there empty," Garrison said. "The courts are so beautiful. I want them full."